Thursday, June 16, 2016

KISS and Tech Up

When it comes to technology integration we are often encouraged to think outside of the box, transform education, revolutionize the learning process, and aim for the stars. As noble and well-meaning as this is, sometimes it can have the unintended consequence of impeding the growth of educational technology in schools.

How is that possible?

This last year I had the privilege of working with several teachers over many months on technology integration projects. The plan was to explore SAMR, the 4 C’s, ISTE standards, and technology tools. Then the teachers would create a technology integrated activity for their students.

As we got closer to the date to develop and deliver the lesson, I got variations of the same concern from many of the teachers:

  • Is my project big enough?
  • Am I using enough technology tools?
  • Does this really revolutionize teaching and learning?

The teachers were stressing out that their lessons were not awesome enough to count as real technology integration. They felt intimidated and unsure and reluctant to move forward.

Seeing the problem, I tried to reassure them that they were fine. They just needed to embrace the philosophy of KISS. No, not the makeup-wearing rock band.  What I mean is the phrase “Keep it Simple, Stupid” (or “Sweetie” if you prefer to be nicer).

Read on to see why…


KISS

When it comes to technology integration, certainly we do want to aim high. We need to prepare our students with the skills they need for their futures. This includes the 4C’s (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking), and the ISTE standards for students, and the P21 Framework, and higher levels of SAMR.

Yes we need to have high goals, but we can’t reach them in one giant leap. Often the best way to meet our big goals in to take small steps toward them. We need to balance “best practices” with “being practical”.

Rather than creating some massive, earth-shattering, multi-technology lesson, I encouraged the teachers to simply take a lesson they have done in the past, and just tweak it. Find a way to introduce technology into the old lesson to improve it a bit. Maybe check off one of the four C’s. Perhaps bump up one step in the SAMR model.

In short ... KISS.

When integrating technology, there are several good reasons to take small steps and keep it simple:

1) Repetition

Let’s say to do go all out and create the "Technology Lesson to End All Lessons". It uses five different technology tools, spans several weeks, and checks off all six strands of ISTE standards. When the project ends and the dust settles you will pat yourself on the back, look at all you have accomplished, and proclaim “I am never going to do that again!”

It’s just not realistic. If integrating technology is that much work, you may do it once for a graduate class requirement, but you can’t do the same thing week after week.

Instead, if you make a small but meaning change with technology, you will be much more likely to try it again with a future lesson. Steps, not leaps, in the right direction are something you can repeat, and will want to repeat and grow from.

2) Replication

Not only will you want to repeat your use of technology, but your colleagues will be inspired to do the same. However, they may not be if the lesson is too big.

If you do create that massive technology integration project, other teachers in your school may be impressed by you, but they will not be encouraged by you. They might think:

  • Sure that works for Eric, he is a technology geek.
  • Or... sure Eric can do that, his students have access to Chromebooks all the time.
  • Or... ok Eric can pull that off. He doesn’t have life, so he has time to make that work.

Instead, if you show your co-workers that neat one-period activity, or that cool way students used that one web app, or the way you tweaked an old lesson to let kids collaborate, they will say, “Cool, I can do that. That looks easy.”

3) Reinforcement

Finally, when we take small steps with technology we tend to focus on the real point of technology… acting as a support for teaching and learning. If your goal is to help students learn, then you will find ways for technology to come alongside naturally to reinforce the content and skills being taught.

However, if your goal is to make a technology-rich lesson, you may focus more on the technology than the learning. As always, the learning needs to drive the technology, not the other way around.

When properly integrated, technology sort of becomes invisible. Sure, it is there the whole time, but it is there to support the learning, help the students collaborate, encourage them to communicate, foster their creativity, and spark their critical thinking. When we keep it simple, we focus on the learning, and find ways for technology to make the learning better.

Conclusion

So, as you look for ways to use technology in your classroom, remember to keep it simple. Yes, you absolutely need to aim high, strive to transform learning, and plan to change to world. Just do it one step at a time. Just KISS and tech up.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1

4 comments:

  1. "Or... ok Eric can pull that off. He doesn’t have life, so he has time to make that work." hahaha this made me LOL
    Modeling works wonders... offering to go in and teach a lesson in the classroom, with the teacher there to observe, then gradually releasing responsibility to the teacher in subsequent lessons... confidence soars and they see how easy it can be!

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    Replies
    1. Excellent suggestion! Great way to help them take those small steps.

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  2. Really practical ideas to get tech-ing! Baby steps are manageable-that's how we all learned to walk and run right?

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